Friday, September 30, 2016

On Dahlias

A long time ago, I pinned this beautiful sculpture by ceramicist Maria Oriza.  I've been really drawn to sculptural art lately, both textile and not, and that piece stuck in my brain.  When I finished the Eucharistic Prayer C quilt I knew I wanted to give the overly planning part of my brain a break and try something different.  I thought about what kinds of things in nature have that curved over shape, and the first thing that popped into my mind was dahlia petals.  After looking at as many dahlias in person as I could, I jumped right in.  The purple-pink-peach color scheme and the petal shape I chose are only vaguely reminiscent of real-life dahlias, but mostly what I'd wanted was a starting point.

I painted six large fabric petal pieces, each one destined to be the front or back of a single petal.  The fabric was my usual synthetic polyester-whatever-was sitting around.  Some of it was white, some of it was beige, some was heavy weight and some was very lightweight lining, but all synthetic since I wanted to melt it back.  I also painted a bunch of peach chiffon for the top section where I wanted it to lighten up. Interestingly, the way some of the fabrics took the paint was differently affected by the plastic I had underneath as I was painting.  As a result, in some of the petals there's some pattern in the color due to the crumpled plastic underneath.  You can see it a bit in some of the close up pics below.  Such fun serendipity!

After the paint dried, I used one painted petal for the back, and then started layering the batting.  The bottom half of each petal has a layer of wool batting, then a layer of polyester batting, while the center of each panel has only a single layer of polyester batting, and the top of each petal has no batting at all.  I then layered another painted petal on top and then fused down cut organza over the top.

Each petal was heavily machine quilted, and one of the most fun parts for me was picking the thread colors.  At first I stuck with blendy colors, but soon started branching out.  In the end I think it's the non-blendy colors, the blues, turquoises, and neon yellows, that give some of the depth of color.




After machine quilting, I cut out my open spaces and melted them back with a wood burning tool and then finished the edges by couching some thin matching yarn around the circumference with an invisible zig zag.

The hardest part was actually assembling the whole thing.  Of course the quilted petals wouldn't hold any shape alone, so I coated them with several coats of Aleenes fabric stiffener.  To get them to stay in place, I pinned the overlapping edges, and stuffed them with crumpled paper.  After they dried, I hand stitched the overlapping section of each petal, and also hand stitched the three petals together.  



The pocket was a nightmare since I couldn't put it on until all three petals were assembled, but at that point the whole thing was too stiff to sew easily, yet extremely fragile and crushable.  Then, since the pocket is about halfway down from the top (because of the odd shape), when I hung it on the wall, the petal tops flopped forward.  I finally wound up constructing a sort of skeleton out of yardsticks and stitching small straps to the back to hold the skeleton in place.  It now hangs nicely and so far isn't collapsing on the wall.  It's about 60" wide, 48" tall, and 8" deep and doesn't in any way get smaller for shipping, so I think I'm going to have to ship it in a mattress box with a bunch of packing material.
On Dahlias, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 48" x 60" x 8", photo c. Mike Cox


On Dahlias, detail c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 48" x 60" x 8", photo c. Mike Cox

On Dahlias, detail c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 48" x 60" x 8", photo c. Mike Cox

On Dahlias, detail c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 48" x 60" x 8", photo c. Mike Cox

In spite of making several small paper mock-ups before I started, I'm not sure I got the proportions of the shapes quite right, but otherwise I'm pleased with how it turned out.  Certainly I learned some things about working in 3D on this fairly large (for me) scale, that will influence how I design work like this in the future.

I got it "finished" that is, stiffened and stitched together, in time to enter into Quilt National '17, but it took almost two more weeks to get the skeleton, pocket, and slat situation worked out.  I just found out last Friday that it didn't get in to Quilt National, but they were kind enough to send out the notices a little earlier than scheduled which meant I had time to enter it into something else with an upcoming deadline.  I'm sorry of course that it didn't get in, but for the time being, I'm enjoying having it hanging on the yellow wall under the big window in my studio.




Super super excitingly though, my mom did get a piece into Quilt National (Hooray!), so we'll travel together out for the opening next May.

Finishing this for the QN deadline was a big push for me, and the last three weeks have been really crazy on the personal front, but now I'm back home for a little while and have some time to start focusing on my next thing!  Incidentally, if you like dahlias, this is the best instagram account ever.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stitched in Color Mosaic Contest

Stitched in Color is one of my very favorite blogs.  Rachel has such a wonderful voice and the blend of work and family she shares in her space makes it a wonderful online haven for creativity and just general living.  She periodically hosts themed mosaic contests, and while I rarely enter, I always enjoy looking through what others have put together.

However this time, the theme was "Dreaming at Dusk" and the timing just seemed right.  Some of you may know I've taken up a new hobby this summer, crewing for my friend who races sailboats here locally on Lake Hefner.  It's been really a blast, but last night was, unexpectedly, the last night of the season.  I snapped this photo as I walked off the dock, and it seemed like the perfect dreamy, dusky, inspiration for Rachel's mosaic contest.


The mosaic contest is kindly sponsored by Lark Cottons,  who had a really lovely selection except for a dearth of periwinkles and greyed out purples.  Greyed out colors are usually harder to find anyway, but I think they can really add depth to fiber art, so hopefully we'll see more of them.  I had a lot of fun browsing through all the fabrics though to find the ones for my mosaic!



Thanks Rachel for hosting this fun contest!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Anonymous

It's time once again for the Blogger's Quilt Festival, hosted as ever by the indomitable Amy from Amy's Creative Side.  She does such a great job of hosting and gathering sponsors and it's really one of the premier online quilt shows anywhere.  I really encourage you to click through and see/comment on the fabulous entries.


This quilt is my entry in the Art category.  For my regular readers it'll be familiar as a recent finish, but I'm excited to have the opportunity to share it with a wider audience.

This piece began as my attempt to work abstractly, inspired only by shapes and colors.  As I worked though, I slowly saw a person emerging.  Others have seen a large bird or other abstract designs.  My nameless faceless person can be anyone you wish, though in my brain she is always a woman.  Some have said she looks like a desert dweller, or is reminiscent of a character from science fiction; maybe from the dunes of Arakkis or even a Jawa from Star Wars.  In any case, one of my favorite things about abstract or semi-abstract work is that there is room for many different interpretations.

The quilt is entirely pieced (not applique) and the central portion is a completely separate entity, pieced/quilted/faced on its own.  It was then stitched down to the separate dark blue background, again a fully finished "quilt" that serves to frame the central image.  I really had a fun time working on this project.  It was so different from the way I usually work, and forcing myself to commit to a design process  I wouldn't normally use was very rewarding.  For more details on the project, you can check out the tag.


Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h

My artist statement for this one is short and sweet:  In remembrance of women throughout the world who remain voiceless, oppressed, judged for their choices, or stripped of their identity. In solidarity of those of all faiths, or no faith, who choose inclusion rather than anger.


Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail
Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail



Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail

Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail

Do you work abstractly?  What is your design process usually like?

Thanks to all those who clicked through from the Blogger's Quilt Festival, and I encourage you all to check out the great quilts there.

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Eucharistic Prayer C: Convergence

It's time once again for the Blogger's Quilt Festival, hosted as ever by the indomitable Amy from Amy's Creative Side.  She does such a great job of hosting and gathering sponsors and it's really one of the premier online quilt shows anywhere.  I really encourage you to click through and see/comment on the fabulous entries.


This quilt is my entry in the Original Design category.  For my regular readers it'll be familiar as a recent finish, but I'm excited to have the opportunity to share it with a wider audience.

This quilt is one of my most long-running ever.  The first post about it was February 18, 2014, but the project had been bubbling in my mind since at least 2009.  It's construction has been a comedy of errors, so if you're interested in more details, you can check out its tag.

Eucharistic Prayer C: Convergence, Shannon M. Conley, c. 2016, 45"h x 62"w
The quilt is an exploration of the intersection of science and religion and is part of an ongoing series of liturgical quilts I'm completing.  The central text comes from Eucharistic Prayer C, from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.  It is a slightly more contemporary version of an ancient prayer used before communion.  I have always been drawn to the science/natural history feel of the text. It says:

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.
Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.

Again and again, you called us to return. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent your only Son, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace.
By his blood, he reconciled us.
By his wounds, we are healed.




I started thinking about God in the world, the evolution of life on our planet, and those who use their talents to study the world around us.  Thus instead of saints, the illuminated initials contain pictures of notable scientists.

Louis Pasteur

Galileo Galilei


Marie Curie

Barbara McClintock


Likewise, instead of depicting biblical stories or other scenes from the life of the church, the borders illustrate the evolution of life on our planet.  Starting along the top are "galaxies, suns, and the planets in their courses" along with sections of a Louis Pasteur quote expressing the idea that science can bring us closer to God. "par la science qui rapproche l'homme de Dieu"

The whole quote is: Le premier regard de l'homme jeté sur l'univers n'y découvre que variété, diversité, multiplicité des phénomènes. Que ce regard soit illuminé par la science, — par la science qui rapproche l'homme de Dieu, — et la simplicité et l'unité brillent de toutes parts.




Working counterclockwise, the far right border depicts early life: my interpretation of "primordial soup" (top), chemosynthetic bacteria at an undersea hydrothermal vent (middle), and stromatolites which helped oxygenate the earth's atmosphere (bottom) beginning in the Archean eras (~3.5 billion years ago).  



Working around the quilt counterclockwise, the bottom right border features a variety of creatures from the Cambrian explosion (~544 million years ago [Ma]) on the right.  These include everyone's favorite trilobite as well as examples ofHallucigenia, Opabinia, Pikaia, Marrella, and Aysheaia. 

The middle panel shows two examples of more advanced, later undersea life.  The bottom is a Eurypterid, which is basically a giant (up to 8ft) sea scorpion which first appeared in the Ordovician period (~505 Ma), but was present for an extremely long time (all the way into the Permian period ~278 Ma).  The top animal is a type of early jawless fish called Cephalaspis which appeared in the early Devonian period (~408 Ma).

The left panel is my very favorite of all the "creature" panels, and is meant to depict early life on land.  Life spread to land during the Silurian period (~440 Ma), and features an example from the order Trigonotarbida, a small spidery creature.  Of course life on land means early plants as well, so the little bug is pictured with a fern.


The skinny borders along the middle of the two panels effectively function as one set of animals, all from THE AGE OF DINOSAURS (that should sound like a deep resonating voice over a PA system).  At the bottom is my old friend the Helicoprion, a shark species with a round saw blade-like set of teeth. Definitely check it out if you aren't familiar. Helicoprion actually arose in the Permian period (~290 Ma), survived the great extinction event at the end of the Permian, and continued living on into the Triassic period.  The middle panels feature our old friend Coelophysisa carnivorous theropod dinosaur of the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods (~200 Ma).  The top is a Pteranodon, from the Cretaceous period (~144 Ma).


Back on the bottom (this time of the left panel) but continuing to work counter clockwise, I've included a Gastornis, a species of giant (up to 6 feet) flightless bird that lived during the late Paleocene/Eocene epochs (Paleogene period, ~60 Ma).  The center features a wooly mammoth from the Pleistocene epoch (first diverged from other mammoths ~400,000 years ago).  The final piece of the puzzle is people, and the bottom corner shows my version of Adam and Eve, sitting at the base of a symbolic tree of life.  They're reading On the Origin of Species, and the rest of the tree of life that runs all the way up the left side is filled with a variety of Darwin's finches.









I think most of the story of this quilt will probably not be evident to those who just view the quilt, but all the pieces were integral to my design idea, I wanted to explain them here.  After finishing this highly planned, quite precise/realistic/involved quilt, I'm looking forward to working on some other more abstract and free-flowing pieces.  I'll be called back to this series at some point though, so I'm sure there will be more illumination-style work in the pipeline.

What are your long-term-in-your-brain-forever projects?  Have you finished some of them?  How did that feel?  Were you happy with the outcome and how it matched what you had in  your head?

Thanks to all those who clicked through from the Blogger's Quilt Festival, and I encourage you all to check out the great quilts there.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Eucharistic Prayer C: Convergence, Finally Finished!

I feel like there have been a bunch of "finally finished" posts on some of my big projects lately.  I don't think it's really the case, certainly I've been even less productive than usual recently, but I guess it's just how the posts shake out.

This quilt is one of my most long-running ever.  The first post about it was February 18, 2014, but the project had been bubbling in my mind since at least 2009.  This is one that's been "almost" finished for months.  You may recall back in June I realized that two of the large illuminated letters had been put on backwards, so I had to rip out a ton of quilting, carefully remove the initials, change their places and then requilt.  It then needed to be rephotographed (thanks Mike for all the pictures in this post).  Then came the pockets and labels (times 2 of course since there are two panels).  And then finally another large black pocket spanning both panels and sewn on top of the original pockets.  The large black pocket was required because the IQA judged show at Houston requires multi-panel pieces to be sewn onto a single pocket or black panel.  Although it was extremely annoying to sew on, I don't mind so much since the quilt got into the show (yay!).  Anyway, now it's actually finished finished, and writing up the blog post is the last step.

Eucharistic Prayer C: Convergence, Shannon M. Conley, c. 2016, 45"h x 62"w
The quilt is an exploration of the intersection of science and religion and is part of an ongoing series of liturgical quilts I'm completing.  The central text comes from Eucharistic Prayer C, from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.  It is a slightly more contemporary version of an ancient prayer used before communion.  I have always been drawn to the science/natural history feel of the text. It says:

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.
Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.

Again and again, you called us to return. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent your only Son, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace.
By his blood, he reconciled us.
By his wounds, we are healed.




I started thinking about God in the world, the evolution of life on our planet, and those who use their talents to study the world around us.  Thus instead of saints, the illuminated initials contain pictures of notable scientists.

Louis Pasteur

Galileo Galilei


Marie Curie

Barbara McClintock


Likewise, instead of depicting biblical stories or other scenes from the life of the church, the borders illustrate the evolution of life on our planet.  Starting along the top are "galaxies, suns, and the planets in their courses" along with sections of a Louis Pasteur quote expressing the idea that science can bring us closer to God. "par la science qui rapproche l'homme de Dieu"

The whole quote is: Le premier regard de l'homme jeté sur l'univers n'y découvre que variété, diversité, multiplicité des phénomènes. Que ce regard soit illuminé par la science, — par la science qui rapproche l'homme de Dieu, — et la simplicité et l'unité brillent de toutes parts.



Working counterclockwise, the far right border depicts early life: my interpretation of "primordial soup" (top), chemosynthetic bacteria at an undersea hydrothermal vent (middle), and stromatolites which helped oxygenate the earth's atmosphere (bottom) beginning in the Archean eras (~3.5 billion years ago).  



Working around the quilt counterclockwise, the bottom right border features a variety of creatures from the Cambrian explosion (~544 million years ago [Ma]) on the right.  These include everyone's favorite trilobite as well as examples of Hallucigenia, Opabinia, Pikaia, Marrella, and Aysheaia. 

The middle panel shows two examples of more advanced, later undersea life.  The bottom is a Eurypterid, which is basically a giant (up to 8ft) sea scorpion which first appeared in the Ordovician period (~505 Ma), but was present for an extremely long time (all the way into the Permian period ~278 Ma).  The top animal is a type of early jawless fish called Cephalaspis which appeared in the early Devonian period (~408 Ma).

The left panel is my very favorite of all the "creature" panels, and is meant to depict early life on land.  Life spread to land during the Silurian period (~440 Ma), and features an example from the order Trigonotarbida, a small spidery creature.  Of course life on land means early plants as well, so the little bug is pictured with a fern.


The skinny borders along the middle of the two panels effectively function as one set of animals, all from THE AGE OF DINOSAURS (that should sound like a deep resonating voice over a PA system).  At the bottom is my old friend the Helicoprion, a shark species with a round saw blade-like set of teeth. Definitely check it out if you aren't familiar. Helicoprion actually arose in the Permian period (~290 Ma), survived the great extinction event at the end of the Permian, and continued living on into the Triassic period.  The middle panels feature our old friend Coelophysis, a carnivorous theropod dinosaur of the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods (~200 Ma).  The top is a Pteranodon, from the Cretaceous period (~144 Ma).


Back on the bottom (this time of the left panel) but continuing to work counter clockwise, I've included a Gastornis, a species of giant (up to 6 feet) flightless bird that lived during the late Paleocene/Eocene epochs (Paleogene period, ~60 Ma).  The center features a wooly mammoth from the Pleistocene epoch (first diverged from other mammoths ~400,000 years ago).  The final piece of the puzzle is people, and the bottom corner shows my version of Adam and Eve, sitting at the base of a symbolic tree of life.  They're reading On the Origin of Species, and the rest of the tree of life that runs all the way up the left side is filled with a variety of Darwin's finches.








I think most of the story of this quilt will probably not be evident to those who just view the quilt, but all the pieces were integral to my design idea, I wanted to explain them here.  After finishing this highly planned, quite precise/realistic/involved quilt, I'm looking forward to working on some other more abstract and free-flowing pieces.  I'll be called back to this series at some point though, so I'm sure there will be more illumination-style work in the pipeline.

What are your long-term-in-your-brain-forever projects?  Have you finished some of them?  How did that feel?  Were you happy with the outcome and how it matched what you had in  your head?

Linking up with Nina-Marie, and TGIFF.



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Something New

Something new, something free-flowing, hopefully something fearless.  I've been painting and blending, big arm strokes and runny colors.  Petals.



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Anonymous: finished!

Back in May I showed you my improvisationally pieced quilt top which started out quite abstract before slowly resolving into something that looks, to me at least, a lot like a person.  I free motion machine quilted it as always, more or less following the general curves of the piece and using both contrasting and matching threads.  After finishing the quilting and indulging in some creative consultation with my mom, it became apparent that it not only needed to be cropped, but that the pale background was blending in to the white wall.  I therefore decided to mount it on a dark blue quilted background which I think grounds it nicely.



So here it is finished.  And many many thanks to Mike for taking all these final pictures.  I think he really managed to get great definition in the quilting on the background without washing out the foreground too much.  Many of the fabrics are silky/shiny, and they look great in person.  I'll keep everyone posted if it goes out into the world.

Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h

My artist statement for this one is short and sweet:  In remembrance of women throughout the world who remain voiceless, oppressed, judged for their choices, or stripped of their identity.


Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail
Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail



Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail

Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail

Linking up to the fabulous Nina-Marie as always as well as TGIFF!